Snarkling Sunday!

There have been so many comments to the FOAD post and since I've been out of the office snarking about outside the 212 I figured I'd post them all here, and reply.

Some comments are edited for..um ...snarkieness.

Tribe said...
But you aren't snarky in the initial rejections, are you? Or does the snark hit the fan only when the rejectee writes back begging to differ with the rejection?

Miss Snark: No, at least I hope not. My rejection letters are form letters, printed out with name, address, title of book and "not right for me" kind of thing. The only variation is whether I include "do query other agents" cause sometimes the work is so gawdawful, I'm hoping the querier never queries anyone ever again.

Anonymous said...
One thing you should never write is "I love your writing, I just don't have the confidence to {basically, represent it}." There's nothing more transparent or useless to a writer than hearing the people who are supposed to be getting manuscripts in front of the right people are a bunch of timid, beaten-down sissies. Agents who write that and expect it to be taken sincerely rarely get sympathy from writers.

Miss Snark says: watch who you're calling sissy bucko or I'll sic my poodle on you.

Anonymous said...
I prefer comments, but anything's fine so long as it isn't an ad for the agent's very expensive e-book on how to write a query letter. I received one of those the other day, CC'd to a long list of rejected submitters. A few minutes later the agent wrote again, blaming the obvious mass email on his new assistant, but it sounded like he did protest too much. Nor did he apologize for the ad.
At least the unprofessionalism of the rejection made me glad this particular agent didn't make me an offer, so that's something.

Miss Snark: Mercantilism disguised as rejection letters!! Miss Snark has refrained so far from writing or selling any of her witticisms. That is just about two shades on the correct side of the fine line of the "reading fee" scam. When Miss Snark was a bobbysoxer certain college professors required textbooks they had written for the course syllabus. It was slime then, it's slime now. You can quote me. Free.

Chris Stephens said...
It would be better to include some comment with a rejection. That is, if you actually have something to say. There is always the chance--remote, I grant you--that authors can actually get beyond their egotism enough to learn something useful from what you have to say. As a learning exercise I believe all authors should learn to accept all negative opinions towards their work as absolutely true. They should undertake this painful exercise for perhaps thirty minutes. At the end of the thirty minutes they can go back to the more comfortable ontological position of rejecting all criticism as the work of warped minds.
9:21 AM

MS: remote, and more remote with the advent of publish on demand mills that tell you you can be published with hardly any work, and no pesky comments.

Maria said...
I prefer comments, but I understand why agents/editors don't offer them. They don't want the boomerang.

MS: yup. I've had people send rejection letters back to me with no comments or cover letter ... as if to say "did you really mean to send this" I guess. I've had people write back and tell me I'm obviously missing what the writer meant to say (ya think that maybe might possibly indicate a problem with...the WRITING??) I've had people write and tell me I'm full of shit..but would I reconsider?

kitty said...
A hand written comment carries the most post punch, even if it is "fuck off and die." (Memo to self: Scratch name off Christmas card list.)
MY rejection pecking order:
1) No response is the worst. Christ, at least let me know that someone actually saw the envelope!
2) A form letter is one step up from no response.
3) Rubber stamp response is humiliating but at least the stamper saw the submission and had to expend some energy (while pounding out his/her aggression).
4) Hand-written response -- just the word "Sorry" -- on form letter is much better than rubber stamp. In fact any kindly response, either typed or hand-written, is treated with the respect only afforded the Gutenberg Bible.
5) A non-form letter that's bitchy.
6) A non-form letter that actually gives me some idea, in a non-bitchy manner, why my hard work is being rejected.
7) #6 with an added bit of hope, i.e., "Keep writing," or the ultimate, "Try us again."

Miss Snark is #2. Take that as you will.

Paul Jessup said...
If I ever received a rejection letter that said "Fuck off and die", I would so frame it. Sometimes, I wonder if that's the real response I want when I send out a MS/Query/Whatever.

Dear Mr Jessup: Fuck off and die.
Or ... as below "Let's be friends".

Best wishes

Anonymous said...
I've always suspected that many rejected manuscripts meet their fate not because of some specific problem within them, but because the agent reading just doesn't fall in love with the book. Think about the last ten books you read: how many of them did you love enough to give them an emphatic, no-holds-barred recommendation? That made you harass your friends until they read it? You're not going to love most books THAT much.
My guess is that agents want to love the books they represent THAT much. And much of the time, there's not any specific, quantifiable criticism they can give to "fix" the fact that they just didn't fall in love. But what the hell do I know?

Yes, this is a very good point. Somewhat like all fifty contestants for Miss America are beautiful but only one, for whatever reason is chosen Miss America. Doesn't mean the other 49 need bags over their faces ... this just wasn't their year.

David J. Montgomery said...
I think I'd rather just hear no, unless you have a constructive suggestion (something other than "stick this up your ass").
On a side note, relating to anonymous' comment above...Half the books that come across my desk (books that, presumably, impressed an agent, an editor, a marketing department, and God knows who else) seem so hard to love that it boggles the mind to think of what gets rejected.

Miss Snark: someone somewhere loved "The Rainbow Party"and "Gossip Girls" and "Bridges of Madison County".

Bill Peschel said...
I don't know that I would want comments unless I respected your judgment already. When Michael Seidman was at Walker, for example, I knew of him through his postings on DorothyL, his books on editing and a few letters. Considering he signed people whose works I love (Lev Raphael, Keith Snyder and Harold Adams), I would take any advice he gave with both hands, and be grateful for it.
Since half of all editors are below the mean for intelligence, I wonder which half your advice would fall on.
OTOH, I've been around long enough (that is, rejected) that it doesn't bother me what you do (posting on blogs have already inured me to the FOAD response). Just get back to me in a reasonable time. I'll take it from there.

Miss Snark: I think the folks reading and writing here in the blogosphere are one ...ok ...six ... steps up from the clueless folks who write me the bulk of my slush pile. I've said it before, it bears repeating: most agents aren't howling about the excess of good material, they are howling about the lack of it.

JJ said...
How about this: Nothing. Let's get rid of the SASE all together. Everyone knows that only bad news comes through the mail. If you love us, you're going to call or email. Rejection letters come through the mail.
You recycle my manuscript or partial and I'll wait 4 to 6 weeks before scratching you off the list and moving on.

MS: I think that's a pisspore idea. However, I've already said so over on the STAMP THIS posting so I'll let the matter lie.

Anonymous said...
It's like if you don't want someone to be your boyfried--or even go on a date--do you say? "Well if you changed x or y, the I could love you." Agents can't even say, "Let's be friends."

Miss Snark: I may start using this in my rejection letters. "let's be friends" is much nicer than "fuck off and die".

mapletree7 said...
a) If you're asking an agent to represent you, presumably you respect their opinion already.
b) Writing comments on rejection letters would require me to read the submissions. Most submissions don't require me to read more than the first paragraph. At which point I can safely say 'this sucks' and send a form letter. This happens to 90% of queries.
c) Seriously? Fuck off and die?

a. most of the queriers have not a clue who I am. I'm a name on a list.
b. Sadly true. I try to read ten pages just in case, but I'm never happily surprised if the first couple pages suck.
c. Well ... no, not those exact words. But the tone was pretty clear. And FOAD never comes from the big agencies. It's always from someone who thinks s/he's too important to ever need queries again.

ScaramoucheX said...
Snark, you really are too good...just reading the title of today's entry gave me a better laugh than I am likely to have all day...you're the best, and all the best people know it

Dear Scary: You have such exquisite taste.

Travis said...
My least favorite rejection letter is a really small one. I received one last week that was only a hair larger than a business card. I seriously considered scanning it and posting it on my website.
Looking at it from an agent's perspective, however, I admit it's a great concept. Print rejection letters on cardstock (more expensive), but make them small enough to fit eight on a sheet. Break even or maybe save a little money on the deal. Most importantly, your pre-printed rejection letters are a piece of cake to drop into an envelope. No folding, no flimsy, recycled copier paper. Genius.
Miss Snark, what's your opinion on #9 envelopes as SASEs? I thought I was being clever by using them, but now I wonder if I'm actually just pissing people off. (Of course, I'm pissing them off while they are mailing me a form rejection letter, which will piss me off three days later, so maybe it all evens out.)

Miss Snark: Business card sized rejections? What did it say? Haiku? The Kanji character for "I'm not worthy to read your work"? FOAD? I gotta look into this. Think of all the time I could save and use to drink scotch, shop for shoes ... or ... read!

#9 are the ones that fit inside #10 barely, right? As long as a letter folds into it with no stuffing and no origami structures needed, ok. What I detest are the little ones that are the size of checks ... or smaller. Or weird sizes, like wedding invitations.

Mark said...
I've had a couple of long responses. They were helpful and provided insight into the thought process on the other end.

Miss Snark undoubtedly was not one of them, sad to say.

JD Rhoades said...
I had quite a few rejections with comments and suggestions. Some of them were quite helpful, some only served to let me know that this really would not be a good agent for me because this person, while quite nice, has no earthly idea what I'm trying to do.
So, put me down on the "comments are good" side.

Miss Snark has received queries she didn't understand either. One of course was from James Joyce but happily, he found publishing elsewhere.

chryscat said...
Comments are good. I suppose we've all been commented and rubberstamped. And some days are assuredly better than others.
I think it's a shame that submitters in your slush pile feel the need to show their ass at every turn. That would definitely call for a rubber stamp. Or maybe just a polite "fuck off and die."

Miss Snark: Father Snark has a rubber stamp from his days at the Pentagon. It says "Hogwash" in a lovely gothic font. Miss Snark may have to wrest it from his aging but still steely grip.

Ellen Fisher said...
I don't think it really matters. When you get right down to it, a form letter is not much different from a letter that says, "I'm only rejecting this with much handwringing because your writing is so good, but I'm just not sure I can sell it." Neither of these responses provides any useful information, and both are fairly formulaic... most "personalized" rejections I've received have sounded more or less alike. (The old "it's just not right for our list" line, you know.)
OTOH, a rejection that lists lots of specific problems with the manuscript is very helpful-- but it's also an invitation to the writer to rewrite and submit, which may not be what the agent wants.
But regardless of whether the author gets a form letter or a slightly more personalized rejection, there is no call for the author to be rude to an agent or editor. It's just not smart to tick someone off when you may have occasion to submit to them again in the future.

Miss Snark: Like an elephant Miss Snark remembers all. AND she looks better in the pink tutu than Dumbo ever did.


Anonymous said...

Anonymous Bucko: My husky can totally take your poodle on any time, name your playground. Heh.

You're not one of those who lack the confidence to do your job. With the amounts of java you drink each morning, you should be absolutely brazen in your rejections.

Anonymous said...

Dear Mr Jessup: Fuck off and die.
Or ... as below "Let's be friends".

Best wishes

I'm printing this out and framing it now.

Miss Snark said...

Excellent choice. I think a black matte and silver frame go well with the font.